Kristen Whirrett, a former Lutheran school teacher in Fort Wayne, Indiana, always planned to take a career break to focus on motherhood. “When we were still dating, Andy [her husband] and I decided that we wanted one of us to stay home with our children, at least until the youngest was in kindergarten,” she says. That’s what their mothers had done. The couple, both educators, made frugal housing and transportation choices so that, after their first child arrived a few years ago, and then another soon after, Whirrett could leave her position.
Yet for a woman who calls herself a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), Whirrett spends much time working. During her children’s nap-time and on Saturday mornings, when Andy takes the kids, she runs a blog, Joyfully Thriving, which documents her household-management strategies. It brings in revenue from affiliate sales and ads. She produces custom books for events, such as graduations, writing these at night, after the kids are asleep. She teaches piano two afternoons a week, six hours total, while her parents babysit. Then she spends another three hours per week on social-media work for various churches, fitting this work in wherever she can. All told, she estimates, she works 20 hours a week and earns one-quarter to one-third of her previous salary.
“Our budget works on my husband’s income, but it’s very tight,” she explains. “The money I earn allows us to save a bit more, travel in the summer to see our family across the country, and accomplish big house projects.” Recently, they made an extra mortgage payment and sent another check to their retirement fund—“things that we couldn’t do without my various moneymaking endeavors.” She sees similar industry among her circle of friends, several of whom have part-time gigs. “Up to this point, I think you had to choose one or the other. You either stayed home or worked,” she says, describing the dynamic that has long defined the so-called Mommy Wars.
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